In these summer months, lunchtime walks have become a near-daily event for me. Even when it isn’t sunny it’s at least warm. While I walk I tend to listen to something stimulating – a radio 4 program or podcast – but I’m fast exhausting my familiar listening material.
This week I’m giving Sinica a go. It’s a podcast broadly about China, where the hosts invite a special guest to help them cover one specific issue each episode. Yesterday lunchtime I listened to an episode from June, Kai-Fu Lee on Artificial Intelligence in China, and I include below a ~6 minute segment from the end of the episode, which is the focus of this post.
Today brings the revelation of Hong Kong citizen, publisher and bookseller Lam Wing-kee that in October last year he did not voluntarily cross the border into China to meet waiting law enforcement officers, in order to repent his sins for selling rumour-laden, sensationalist, gossip factory books about Chinese leadership in a televised confession.
He was rendered by Chinese state security operatives, against his will, as he crossed the border from Hong Kong to neighbouring Shenzhen, taken to the coastal port of Ningbo and made to sign papers waiving his right to a lawyer (an inalienable right, even in Chinese law). After months of house arrest and torture he eventually made a broadcast confession, reading from a pre-prepared script. A confession he now wholly refutes.
China is a communist country. The Communist Manifesto calls for“Abolition of property in land” and the Chinese constitution states that“Socialist public property is sacred and inviolable”.
Home ownership is a core cultural norm. Husbands are, by and large, expected to at least have a deposit down on an apartment before asking a girl’s hand in marriage. Preferably the property is already owned outright. I only know one person over the age of 28 who is renting, and that’s because she was recently divorced.
Clearly there is a serious tension between these two principles.
I am, for the vast majority of the time, a quiet person. As I’ve written before I’m vexed by internal doubt and so very slow to make up my mind, and slow to judge others. Privately I often rail and seethe, but take small pride in my insistence to let people and ideas have their say.